White Americans Aren’t Racist

White Americans Aren’t Racist Summary

History is full of societies which practiced discrimination. We all have an intuitive idea of what they looked like. In such societies, those with power didn’t openly condemn the discrimination they were secretly perpetuating. Such societies didn’t ostracize people for using words the offended the people they were oppressing as we do with racial slurs aimed at minorities. In genuinely racist societies, people aren’t fired or “canceled” when it is revealed that they are racist.

The society that we live in is one were major corporations, institutions of education, and the government, openly talk about how they try to avoid hiring or admitting white people. It’s one where people can be fired and ostracized for criticizing non-whites but where people are rarely punished for criticizing white people as the American left does openly. It’s a society which says that phrases like “White lives matter” and “It’s okay to be white” are immoral statements of hatred. As in many racist societies of the past, we live in a culture where we are taught that one racial group (whites) is to blame for many of the problems of everyone else. And we are taught that it is racist, and therefore immoral, for white people to attempt to defend themselves. Increasingly, we are told that we must trust the “life experiences” of those who blame whites for their problems and that the very act of looking for rational justification of these claims is itself suspect.

White people are expected to accept that they, and only they, share an inherent evil, racism, for which they can never fully repent though they must relentlessly try to nonetheless. This process may cause whites suffering, but, we are told, to be pre-occupied with the suffering of whites is itself racist.

The only thing  unusual about our culture’s racism is the number of white people who have been socialized into participating in their own oppression. This victimization of whites is already significant. It inhibits white people economically, holds them back in education, subjects them to crimes which are systematically ignored, and sometimes directly damages their mental well being. As racial inequality continues to increase and white people become a demographic minority, these problems will probably only become worse. Certainly, the history of what happens when the majority (future non-whites) blames their unending problems on a minority (future whites) gives us reason for pessimism.

For these reasons, it is important that we recognize the sense in which our society truly is systematically racist and work to correct this before the effects of anti-white ideology are so great that they are simply impossible to ignore.

White Americans Aren’t Racist in Detail

  • Differences in Income and Education
  • Differences in Loan Acceptance Rates
  • Race and Crime
  • Difference in Unemployment
  • Historical Explanations

These observations naturally leads us into countering the most fundamental anti-white lie spread by the left: that racism on the part of white people is the primary explanation of racial inequality in the United States.

This idea is supported by many people in part because they feel that any other sort of explanation is inevitably racist. The implicit logic here, that it is morally problematic to accuse a non-white group of behavior which explains their life outcomes but it is not morally problematic to blame inequality on the racist behavior of white people, is itself obviously racist and anti-white.

A useful first observation towards dispelling this idea is to note that, unlike black Americans, white Americans generally don’t exhibit any racial bias in formal experiments measuring racism.

This data suggests that on average white people exhibit no racial bias. Of course, this does not mean that there are no racist white people. But the impact of such people is made up for by an equal effect from white people who are biased in favor of non-whites so that the net mean level of discrimination is zero.

Leftists sometimes deny this based on the results of implicit association tests which are supposed to measure subconscious biases which people may be totally unaware. However, IAT scores don’t predict actual racist behavior and so are not a valid measure of racial bias.

This data should inform our priors about racist behavior such that we should think that any particular group of white people is on net unbiased with respect to race unless we have some evidence about this particular group of white people which suggests otherwise.

Differences in Income and Education

Some think racism is necessary to explain group differences in income. But blacks actually make more money than whites when education, cognitive skill, marital status and the region someone lives in are controlled for.

Of course, racism may explain a group difference in one of these variables, such as educational attainment, but it is important to note that group differences in income flip direction without directly controlling for any measure of racism.

With respect to educational opportunity, Murray and Rueben (2008) calculated spending per pupil for US schools between the years 1972 and 2002. They found the following: “In 1972, the ratio of nonwhite to white spending was .98; this trend had reversed by 1982, as spending per pupil for nonwhite students was slightly higher than for white students in most states and in the United States as a whole and has been for the past 20 years”. Thus, since 1982, spending on non-white students has been greater than spending on white students.

This issue was revisited by Richwine (2011) who found that spending on black students was 1% greater than spending on white students, while spending on Asian and Hispanic students was a few percentage points lower.

These difference in spending are reflected in school characteristics: on average, blacker schools have smaller classes more experienced teachers who have more formal education and who receive more pay (Cocoran et al., 2003).

This information may surprise some people as leftists often cite data showing that blacker school districts receive less funding than average. This is true but within school districts blacker schools receive more money and thus black students go to better funded schools than white students despite the headlines people sometimes see concerning district level disparities (Ejdemyr et al., 2017).

Once high-school is complete, students apply to college. Based on aggregated data from 20 previous studies, we can estimate that when comparing people of equal qualifications, Black applicants are roughly 21 times more likely than white applicants to be admitted, while Hispanics are 3 times as likely, and Asians are 6% less likely or 59% more likely depending on whether we use the mean or median estimate.

(The race columns show the odds of admission compared to those of white applicants when qualifications are held constant.)

CitationSchoolTypeBlack ORHispanic ORAsian OR
Nagai (2008)Arizona StateLaw1115.4384.952.18
Lerner and Nagai (2002)University of VirginiaLaw730.81.11.86
Nagai (2008)University of NebraskaLaw442.3989.635.78
Armor (2004)William and MaryLaw2670.660.66
Nagai (2008)University of Arizona LawLaw250.0318.152.54
Lerner and Nagai (2002)William and MaryLaw167.512.473.29
Danielson and Sander (2014)BerkeleyLaw121.618.21.6
Armor (2004)University of VirginiaUndergrad1062.810.94
Nagai (2006)University of MichiganUndergrad62.7947.820.81
Lerner and Nagai (2002)University of MarylandMedical20.632.510.68
Armor (2004)North Carolina StateUndergrad131.930.64
Lerner and Nagai (2001)SUNYMedical9.444.080.76
Nagai (2011)Miami UniversityUndergrad7.992.162.14
Danielson and Sander (2014)UCLAUndergrad5.151.920.85
Lerner and Nagai (2006)US Naval AcademyMilitary4.443.320.67
Lerner and Nagai (2001)University of WashingtonMedical4.014.860.9
Nagai (2011)Ohio StateUndergrad3.334.31.47
Lerner and Nagai (2006)US Military AcademyMilitary1.941.20.68
Lerner and Nagai (2002)George MasonLaw1.131.091.74

Similarly, it’s been estimated that the proportion of students attending selective colleges who are white would increase from 66% to 75% if admissions were based solely on test scores.

And once in college non-white students are more likely to receive grants and scholarships despite the fact that white students are no more likely to have their parents pay for their school (Kantrowitz, 2011; Brown, 2019)

As a whole then, resource allocation within the education system favors non-whites students over white ones. Obviously then, white racists have not inhibited black economic success by depriving them of the resources needed for educational success.

Difference in Unemployment

Previously, I noted that racial income differences can easily be flipped by controlling for obvious determinants of income. Of course, to have an income at all you first have to be employed and many people think companies avoid hiring minorities for racist reasons.

This suggestion is difficult to reconcile with the overt behavior of corporations. For instance, a 2017 report on all the companies in the S&P 100 found over 90% of them had engaged in diversity initiatives and 75% of them had gone as far as setting specific hiring targets for minority employment. The same report found that such practices are rapidly gaining in popularity.

The idea that racism explains group differences in employment levels is also hard to square with the fact that there was no unemployment gap between races in the early 20th century when white people were far more likely to be racially biased against black people.

It’s worth noting that the unemployment gap between races that emerged in the second half of the 20th century seems to be, at least in part, voluntary. As Williams (2011) reports: “During 1979-1980, the National Bureau of Economic Research conducted a survey in the ghettos of Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Only a minority of the respondents were employed, yet almost as many said it was easy or fairly easy to get a job as a laborer as said it was difficult or impossible; and 71 percent said it was fairly easy to get a minimum-wage job.”

If you tell this to a leftist, they are likely to respond by noting that black people are less likely than white people to get called back when they submit a job application that is identical in every way other than the race implied by their name. To be specific, Quillian et al. (2017) meta-analyzed the research on hiring discrimination and found that black applicants received 36% fewer call backs than white applicants. So this effect isn’t very large even if it is explained by racism. But it’s probably not. These sorts of experiments rely on a basic misunderstanding of how qualifications relate to job performance.

Now suppose that qualifications on a resume require a certain level of skill and ability to obtain such that those who would be bad employees cannot easily acquire them. As is hopefully evident in the below example, there is no possible threshold for job performance, or any other relevant trait (e.g. job related knowledge, cognitive ability, self discipline, etc.,) where the white mean is above the black mean in general, but not still above the black mean among those who exceed that threshold.
This becomes even more true if we make it easier for black people to acquire a given qualification than it is for a white person. In this scenario, among applicants with any such qualifications, white job performance will exceed black people’s job performance among those with equal qualification even if there is no mean difference in job performance between black and white people in the total population.
This situation is exactly what happens when a society institutes affirmative action and as we’ve seen affirmative action for African Americans is widespread in contemporary America.

These theoretical considerations should be sufficient to show that these experiments are invalid measures of racism, but if you’d like empirical evidence to substantiate this  consider the results of a massive study carried out by the federal government to measure people’s work-related cognitive abilities in terms of things like everyday math skills, writing skills, and the ability to efficiently use information taken from a document.

As can be seen, the general trend was such that black respondents were outscored by white respondents who had lower levels of education attainment than the black respondents did.

Similar results are found in Neill (1990), a paper which shows the mean AFQT percentile scores of black and white men aged 19-21 by education level for the years 1953-1958 and 1980. (The AFQT is a test designed by the military to measure cognitive skills relevant to job performance such as reasoning ability, mathematical ability, and reading ability.)

In 1980, Black people who had completed 3-4 years of college came in, on average, at the 49.7th percentile, or slightly below the average score unconditional on education. By contrast, the average percentile scores were 80.2 for whites with 3-4 years of college, 65.8 for whites with 1-2 years of college, and 46.5 for whites with 3-4 years of high school. This was even more extreme in the 50s, when black people with 3-4 years of college completed scored lower than whites with 3-4 years of high school.

Thus, it is clearly rational for employers to prefer the average white applicant over the average black applicant even if they are the same on paper.

The most important evidence on this question comes from Roth et al. (2003) who meta-analyzed data from 19 previous studies and found that black employees scored 0.30 standard deviations lower than white employees on measures of job performance even when they were working the same job at the same organization. This suggests that what is being required of applicants in terms of actual job performance, rather than on paper qualifications, is lesser for minorities.

This is consistent with most firms engaging in affirmative action in hiring and, because they are invalid measures of racial bias, this is also consistent with black applicants receiving 36% fewer call backs on applications.

Some might argue that this explanation is rude, racist even, because it requires that we note the job performance gap between black and white people. Here I would re-iterate that it is no less rude or racist to blame this difference on the supposed immoral behavior of white people. The only reason I’ve even brought this up is to defend white people against this charge. We can also note that, obviously, a group difference in averages is just that, a difference in averages, and there are individuals of all types in every racial group.

Differences in Loan Acceptance Rates

Another common argument made by the left concerns the fact that black people have a harder time than white people getting a loan. Data from Pew shows that black people are indeed more likely to be denied for a mortgage loan, but even among blacks the rate of denial is only 27%.

Turning the interest rates, it is true that Black people are more than twice as likely as whites to get a mortgage interest rate of 8% or more. But this is very rare even among black mortgage holders. The average interest rate seems to be similar among whites, Hispanics, and blacks, though possibly significantly lower for Asians.

So these differences are real but fairly small. Leftists are apt to point out that some of these differences exist even after controlling for credit scores. This is true, but the remaining differences are really quite small. For instance, Cheng et al. (2014) analyzed data from the U.S. Survey of Consumer Finances for the years 2001, 2004, and 2006 and found that controlling for measures of consumer behavior and debt risk reduced the black-white average interest rate gap to .29%

More importantly, credit scores don’t predict behavior equally well across races. Consider the following from a report given to congress by the federal reserve on how well loan performance is predicted by credit scores: “Consistently, across all three credit scores and all five performance measures, blacks… show consistently higher incidences of bad performance than would be predicted by the credit scores”. In other words, loans to black people have a higher risk of default even after controlling for credit score.

This report also notes that this is largely just true of black and white people with poor credit scores. Among those with high credit scores, there isn’t much of a difference across race in risk. Relatedly, a study by the Chicago federal reserve found no racial bias in loan approval rates among those with a good credit score but a significant bias in favor of whites among those with a bad credit score. Similarly, Ross et al. (2004) find that black borrowers have a tougher time getting loans but this is only true among those who don’t have mortgage insurance. Thus, lenders are acting exactly as we would expect them to if they were accurately using race as a proxy for investment risk.

The strongest evidence against racial bias in lending comes from Bhutta and Hizmo (2019). They analyzed a data set consisting of all FHA-insured mortgages that originated in 2014 and 2015. After controlling for lender effects, credit score, and income, they found a black-white interest gap of .03% and a Hispanic-white gap of .015%. This result is similar to what we’ve already seen, but, unlike most research in this area, Bhutta and Hizmo also included data on discount points and this revealed a racial difference in favor of non-whites. Combining this data into a single model, they found no racial bias in borrower’s expected pay schedule’s. Even more importantly, it is shown that the expected revenue generated by a loan does not significantly differ by the race of the borrower.

This evidence is very hard to reconcile with racial bias. The fact that, once other differences are held constant, races experience the same expected pay schedules directly suggests that no bias exists. The fact that the expected revenue of loans does not differ by race strongly suggests that the differences in the terms of loans given to blacks and whites reflect lenders accurately forecasting the terms which will maximize profit within each race of borrowers. It is hard to see how this result could come about if people were acting on the basis of racial animus rather than economic rationality.

A related claim made by the left is that certain neighborhoods have been “red lined” and are discriminated against by banks. These areas historically contain many minorities and so result in racial discrimination. This hypothesis has been tested in various cities and it’s been consistently shown that the racial composition of a neighborhood has no direct impact on the probability of loan approval, meaning this narrative is simply false.

Ahlbrant (1977)Pittsburgh, PAThe racial composition of someone’s neighborhood had no direct effect on their chances of getting a loan.
Hutchison et al. (1977)Toledo, OhThe racial composition of someone’s neighborhood had no direct effect on their chances of getting a loan.
Dingemans (1979)Sacramento, CA“Measures of ethnicity contribute little explanation” to loan rates. Details not given.
Avery et al. (1981)Cleveland, OHIn demographically stable areas, race had no direct impact on the number of loans given in an area. Loans were 9% less likely to be accepted in areas with quickly changing demographics.
Tootell (1996)Boston, MAThe racial composition of a neighborhood had no direct effect on the rate at which loan requests were rejected

Historical Explanations

If we accept what I’ve argued thus far, we still might think that racial inequality is caused by racism of the past even if our current institutions have been made biased in the opposite direction.

The first problem with this view is that the black-white wealth gap among those who have no inheritance is only 28% lesser than the gap among those who do receive inheritance. The white-Hispanic wealth gap is actually largest among those with note inheritance.

This finding should make us more pessimistic about the plausibility of racist history being the primary explanation of racial inequality.

This inability of inheritance to explain racial wealth differences is explained in part by the fact that African Americans seem to have a hard time passing on wealth they accrue. Specifically, Toney (2016) finds that a doubling of the wealth of a person’s grandparents predicts an 18% increase in their own wealth if they are white but only a 2% increase in their wealth if they are black.

Moreover, the effect among black Americans is not statistically significant, meaning that there is a reasonable chance that it is due to sampling error and that the relationship in the general population is actually zero.

On the basis of this data, we can make a prediction about what would happen to black wealth in the future if it were presently set to equal the wealth of white people. So, for instance, if black wealth was increased by a factor of 7.5, three generations later their net wealth would only be 1.5 times greater than it was prior to the 7.5 factor increase and this would leave the vast majority of the initial racial wealth gap. While the above paper only looks at three generations, it makes sense to assume that this initial wealth increase would fall apart even more in future generations until it was effectively zero.

Similar results were found by Chetty et al. (2018) who were given data by the IRS that allowed them to conduct a statistical analysis where the sample was the entire US population that filed taxes between the years 1989 and 2015. Chetty et al replicated in dramatic fashion the finding that parental wealth doesn’t transfer to future generations well in black families. They write: “A black child born to parents in the top quintile is roughly as likely to fall to the bottom family income quintile as he or she is to remain in the top quintile; in contrast, white children are nearly five times as likely to remain in the top quintile as they are to fall to the bottom quintile”.

Obviously, if money is not being transferred across generations that implies that someone is spending the money and research shows that black people have lower saving rates than white people even when they have the same incomes (Dorgo, 2003). Hughes (2018) is worth quoting at some length on this topic:

“No element of culture harms black wealth accrual more directly than spending patterns. Nielsen, one of the world’s leading market research firms, keeps extensive data on American consumer behavior, broken down demographically. A 2017 Nielsen report found that, compared to white women, black women were 14 percent more likely to own a luxury vehicle, 16 percent more likely to purchase costume jewelry, and 9 percent more likely to purchase fine jewelry. A similar Nielsen report from 2013 found that, while only 62 percent of all Americans owned a smartphone, 71 percent of blacks owned one. Moreover, all of these spending differences were unconditional on wealth and income.

To what extent do poor spending habits explain the persistence of the wealth gap? Economists at the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania asked this question after analyzing 16 years of nationally representative data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. Consistent with the Nielsen data, they found that blacks with comparable incomes to whites spent 17 percent less on education, and 32 percent more (an extra $2300 per year in 2005 dollars) on ‘visible goods’—defined as cars, jewelry, and clothes. What’s more, “after controlling for visible spending,” they concluded that the “wealth gap between Blacks and Whites, conditional on permanent income, declines by 50 percent.” To be clear, that 50 percent figure doesn’t pertain to the total wealth gap, but to the proportion of the gap that remains after income is taken into account—which was 40 percent. The upshot: the fact that blacks spent more on cars, jewelry, and clothes explained fully 20 percent of the total racial wealth gap.

To make matters worse, spending patterns are just one part of a larger set of financial skills on which blacks lag behind. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis followed over 40,000 families from 1989 to 2013, tracking their wealth accumulation and financial decisions. They developed a financial health scale, ranging from 0 to 5, that measured the degree to which families made “routine financial health choices that contribute to wealth accumulation”—e.g., saving any amount of money, paying credit card bills on time, having a low debt-to-income ratio, etc. At 3.12, Asian families scored the highest, followed by whites at 3.11, Hispanics at 2.71, and blacks at 2.63.

Next, they asked if education accounted for the differences in financial habits by limiting the comparison to middle-aged families with advanced degrees. Surprisingly, they found that the racial gap in financial health-scores didn’t shrink; it widened. Highly-educated Asian families scored 3.49, comparable whites scored 3.38, comparable Hispanics scored 2.94, and comparable blacks remained far behind at 2.66.”

Thus, differences in these measures of financial behavior explain nearly as much of the racial wealth gap as does inheritance.

The final nail in the coffin for left wing explanations of racial inequality consists of the many studies with designs that control for obvious confounding variables (including studies on American slavery) which have shown that  parental income and wealth don’t have a causal impact on offspring outcomes that last more than a couple generations and in most cases such effects are practically trivial within a single generation.

Sacerdote (2000)Parental income failed to predict offspring income in an adoptive sample (NLSY).
Sacerdote (2004)In an adoptive sample of Korean Americans parental income was unrelated to offspring income.
Bleakley ad Ferrie (2016)The offspring of the winners of Georgia’s 19th century land lottery did not outperform the offspring of non-winners with respect to wealth or income.
Sacerdote (2002)After two generations, the descendants of slaves had “caught up” to the descendants of free blacks in terms of socio-economic status.
Sacerdote (2000)Family socio-economic status did not predict offspring income at age 23 in an adoptive sample (NCDS).
Ager et al. (2016)Destruction of parental wealth via the American civil war had only a very weak effect on offspring income (a 0.4% decrease in income per 10% decrease in parental wealth).

(Of course, this is presumably untrue of families with extreme levels of wealth, but such families are rare in all races.)

This implies that racial differences in inheritance generally should not be interpreted as being the effects of conditions from many generations ago.

Thus, the relevant empirical evidence suggests that racist behavior of the past is very unlikely to be an important part of the explanation of current racial inequality in economic outcomes. This fact is already of significant political importance. It is likely to be even more important in the future as racial gaps in wealth, income, unemployment, and home ownership, have either been stagnant or growing over the last few generations.

(Many analyses of income mislead people by ignoring the impact of incarceration and unemployment on the amount that groups earn. The analysis below corrects for this.)

Race and Crime

Turning now to the police, liberals say that there is a racial bias in the people police pull over, arrest, and shoot, and then there’s even more racial bias in criminal sentencing. The fact that black policemen and judges pull over, arrest, shoot, and sentence, black Americans at the same or higher rates than white policemen and judges do makes it unlikely that any of this is motivated by racial animus.

Smith et al. (2001)The probability that someone being pulled over was black did not differ between white and non-white police officers
Baumgartner et al. (2018)Blacks were most over-represented among those pulled over when looking at those stopped by black police officers.
Steffenmeier et al. (2001)The impact that being black had on a person’s sentence was found to not significantly differ between black and white judges.
 Ulhman (1978) Black and white judges exhibited equal degrees of racial bias.
 Meinfeld et al. (2018)Black people account for 33% of those killed by non-white police officers compared to only 28% of those killed by white police officers.
 Johnson et al. (2019) The race of police involved in fatal shootings is unrelated to the probability that the person being shot is black or Hispanic.
Brown et al. (2007)“Black suspects were more likely to be arrested when the decision maker was a Black officer”

Moreover, if we look at surveys that ask Americans whether they’ve been the victim of a crime, and if so to describe the perpetrator, we find that black people are arrested for crimes at the same rate that they commit them.

And African Americans are actually underrepresented among those shot by police relative to the rate at which they commit violent crime. Of course, this is not to say that African Americans are never unfairly killed by police. It is just to say that African Americans are not over-represented among those unfairly killed by police because of their race.

A favorite argument for liberals to bring up states that racism must explain why it is that African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested for using drugs despite the fact that both groups use drugs at similar rates. This argument ignores the fact that African Americans are more likely than white Americans to use drugs in high-crime areas, to use and buy drugs outside, to buy drugs from strangers, and other behaviors that elevate their risk for arrest above what you would expect given the rates at which African Americans report using drugs (Lagan 1995; Ramchand et al., 2006).. This argument also ignores the multiple studies which have used drug tests to show that African Americans are more likely than white Americans to falsely claim that they haven’t done drugs (Fendrich et al., 2005; Page et al., 1977; Falck et al., 1992; Feucht et al, 1994; Johnson et al., 2003).

There is no empirical evidence actually demonstrating any racial bias in drug arrest rates, and there is data positively demonstrating no bias in arrest rates for violent crimes, and showing that black and white police officers do not differ in their propensity to arrest African Americans. Given this, and the fact that white people generally don’t behave in a racially biased way, we are justified in concluding that there is probably no racial bias in drug arrest rates until we have serious evidence indicating otherwise.

If there is any sense in which our approach to crime in this nation is racially biased is consists in victims who are ignored. In total, police kill around 215 black people per year. This includes black people who were attacking police officers. By contrast, between 1976 and 2005, on average each year there were 981 black-on-white murders.

To put these numbers in a historical context, consider that roughly 3,500 blacks were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968. That’s a rate of 40 per year. We hear about black people who were lynched in the past and we hear about black people killed by police today. We don’t hear about the white people killed by blacks despite this being far more common. The value judgement implicit in this difference in attention is obvious.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close